Like other 1950s novels for children I’ve reread recently such as “Rusty’s Space Ship” by Evelyn Sibley Lampman and “Freddy and the Space Ship” by Walter R. Brooks, this story, Cameron’s first, plays with the idea of space travel that was the fascination of children of the time, and specifically her own son David. Like those others, the science is poor and the methods of space travel unbelievable, but Cameron’s skill as a writer makes this one work for me as a fantasy and wish-fulfillment, with overtones of magic and mysticism that allows the ideas to succeed.

David Topman is shown an ad in a local paper by his father one day, an ad asking for children to build a space ship and bring it to a Mr. Tyco M. Bass on Thallo Street in his town of Pacific Grove, California. David is thrilled by the idea, and enlists his friend Chuck Masterson to help. Chuck’s grandfather has lots of wood and aluminum sheeting they’re able to use, and the boys finish their ship in a surprisingly short time and deliver it to Mr. Bass, a few blocks from their home. Mr. Bass proves to be a strange but charming small old man with an amazing house having mushrooms in the cellar and an observatory at the top. He explains he’s discovered a small planet orbiting earth that he calls Basidium-X, which is hidden from ordinary telescopes, but can be seen with the special filter he’s invented. Further, Mr. Bass has built a rocket engine, an oxygen source, and an impervious coating that will allow David and Chuck to travel to the small planet with his help and instructions, if they’re willing to take the risk. Mr. Bass has a particular reason for their trip, he believes he’s descended from inhabitants of the planet, and that they need help. But can they actually get there?

Just when you want to give up on this story for the many impossibilities, Cameron draws you back in with fine writing, clever ideas, and intriguing mysteries. First of a series that I’ll be rereading, and recommended.

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron

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